Agile? Nice and orderly, please!

From Lenin comes the state­ment, which unfor­tu­nate­ly can­not be denied entire­ly: “Rev­o­lu­tion in Ger­many? It’s nev­er going to hap­pen. If those Ger­mans want to storm a sta­tion, they’ll still buy a plat­form tick­et!” We Ger­mans are known and appre­ci­at­ed for such virtues as dili­gence, con­sci­en­tious­ness, and sense of order. Even though we some­times over­do it, com­plain about over-reg­u­la­tion and inca­pac­i­ta­tion and then demand a reduc­tion in bureau­cra­cy, our rela­tion­ship with cre­ative diver­si­ty is some­what strained. We pre­fer it neat and order­ly. With­out hav­ing checked it sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly, I would assume that most of the lawn edges are sold and laid in Ger­many. Every­thing has to be in its prop­er order. Even our striv­ing for agili­ty, which then, of course, falls into the cat­e­go­ry “You can’t have your cake and eat it!”

Orga­ni­za­tion­al agili­ty means adapt­abil­i­ty and respon­sive­ness. A cen­tral prin­ci­ple is cus­tomer ori­en­ta­tion through decen­tral­iza­tion. Teams work as close to the cus­tomer as pos­si­ble and gen­er­ate val­ue as autonomous­ly as pos­si­ble. The teams of the nurs­ing orga­ni­za­tion Buurt­zorg or the mini-fac­to­ries at FAVI are good exam­ples of this. How­ev­er, this auton­o­my — and with it, the agili­ty — can only suc­ceed if these teams are giv­en suf­fi­cient free­dom. And that implies a con­sid­er­able dif­fer­ence in the way the teams work. This is no mis­take and does not have to be organized.

Any fool can make a rule. And any fool will mind it.
Hen­ry David Thoreau

Between the­o­ret­i­cal knowl­edge and prac­ti­cal imple­men­ta­tion, there are worlds in our com­pa­nies, in which often instruc­tions exist for the cor­rect use of the handrail on the stairs. As soon as the first teams start work­ing in an agile way and, from ret­ro­spec­tive to ret­ro­spec­tive, improve their meth­ods and tools more and more, the cry for order starts to grow. Then tem­plates for user sto­ries are defined, the Def­i­n­i­tion of Done is stan­dard­ized and JIRA with uni­form work­flows is intro­duced manda­to­ry for all, just to name a few exam­ples. As soon as sev­er­al teams work on more or less con­nect­ed prod­ucts, one yearns for syn­chro­nism and con­for­mi­ty. Then Scrum becomes oblig­a­tory for every­one and the sprint cycle is syn­chro­nized: Mon­day 9 – 10 am: Sprint Plan­ning for all teams and Dai­ly Meet­ing all teams every day at 11:30 am.

Peo­ple do nei­ther need a com­plete­ly over-reg­u­lat­ed every­day life nor sham principles.
Lars Vollmer

In the tran­si­tion to more agili­ty, the bal­ance between auton­o­my and indi­vid­u­al­i­ty on the one hand and obe­di­ence and con­for­mi­ty, on the oth­er hand, is being rene­go­ti­at­ed. Many, like Lars Vollmer, right­ly deplore the over-reg­u­la­tion of our every­day work­ing life and, like Rein­hard K. Sprenger, the wide­spread and inca­pac­i­tat­ing prac­tices in our orga­ni­za­tions. The agile trans­for­ma­tion must nec­es­sar­i­ly lead to dereg­u­la­tion, de-bureau­cra­ti­za­tion, and greater indi­vid­u­al­i­ty. Of course, agile orga­ni­za­tions also need and also have a reg­u­la­to­ry frame­work. But first and fore­most it con­sists of strong com­mon prin­ci­ples and the agile man­i­festo offers a good start­ing point. With­in this frame­work, the open exchange of expe­ri­ence between the teams will grad­u­al­ly lead to a com­mon set of mean­ing­ful rules for coop­er­a­tion. Grad­u­al­ly and steadi­ly evolv­ing, mind you, as a result of the joint effort to work togeth­er in the best pos­si­ble way.

Adult peo­ple orga­nize fam­i­lies, build homes, take respon­si­bil­i­ty in asso­ci­a­tions, make sen­si­ble and for­ward-look­ing deci­sions. But the moment they step through the gates of the com­pa­ny, they are infan­tilized and inca­pac­i­tat­ed, such that I some­times feel stunned. It is being tried to edu­cate them, for exam­ple by means of encroach­ing mea­sures to pro­mote health, by cre­at­ing a sense of pur­pose, by means of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion-mut­ter­ings, feel-good odds and ends and lead­er­ship-ped­a­gogy. And then this inca­pac­i­ta­tion is labeled as care.
Rein­hard K. Sprenger in Impulse (Ger­man)

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